Hello! I’m__________ (Catholic)

Immaculate HeartSome months ago, I was having a conversation about dating relationships with two classmates of mine. Each of my peers was discussing the qualities they look for in a companion (humor, fun, attractiveness, kindness, etc.). When they turned to me to hear a list of my preferences for an ideal mate, I gave the only response that made sense to me: “First and foremost, I would like him to be Catholic.”

In a secular public school atmosphere (and among an audience of one unconvinced Catholic and an atheist), my answer expectedly raised some eyebrows. “Well, I’m sure he doesn’t have to be Catholic,” my atheist cohort replied, telling me through a slanted glance, “I bet that’s not what you really meant to say.” He went on to explain that two people do not need to like all the same things, do all the same things, or believe all the same things to have a healthy, happy relationship—at which point, to his surprise, I completely agreed with him.

I do not like hot dogs (I know, I know…so un-American). I don’t play the guitar. I do not believe that March Madness is the greatest time of year for sports (no, because that would be the college football season). But my likes, dislikes, activities, quirks, and basic beliefs do not define me in the way my faith does. These elements are part of what I like to do and experience. They are not who I am.

Our Catholic faith is not like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If a future boyfriend or husband said to me about PB&J, “Good for you but not for me,” I wouldn’t think twice. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich—as enjoyable as it is—does not constitute who I am. My Catholic faith does, and compatibility, not of likes and dislikes, but of persons, is a necessary component of a meaningful relationship.

I asked my atheist friend if it was easy for him to separate his atheist beliefs from who he is as a person. The more we live out our convictions, the more we find that we cannot separate who we are from what (or whom) we believe. If you truly believe in something, it transforms your being. As Catholics, we don’t just believe in the Church and believe in the Body of Christ. We are the Church; we are the Body of Christ. This reality changes everything. When people ask you what your faith background is, how do you respond? Do you say, “I believe in Catholicism,” or do you mostly find yourself answering, “I am Catholic”? Though we believe in Catholicism, we find it more natural to state our faith as who we are—the Catholic Church.

Our understanding of, and belief in, the Catholic faith must never be divorced from our experiential living of it. When we put who we are as an individual in one category and our Catholic faith in another, we compartmentalize our life in such a way that does a grave injustice to both our personhood and our Catholicity. As humans, we are all—I repeat, all—on a search for meaning, purpose, identity.  We only find the fullness of that identity in Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. Christ and His Church are not a side note, but the subject—the source of meaning and purpose. “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…” (Philippians 3:8-9).

After some discussion, I looked at my atheist friend and said, “Yes. I would love nothing more than for my future boyfriend, fiancé, or spouse to love who I am—a member of the Body of Christ, the Church, Catholic.”

Allow Christ to define you. Do not shy away from living in Christ, from being a part of His Bride and Body. You’ll find there the real you, you in your fullness, the you that will be drawn to others who live fully and completely in Christ. We need to give that gift of ourselves to others. People aren’t starving for us to share similarities with them or for what we can do for them. They are ready to receive who we are. Today do not give someone something you can do, but give them the person you are.

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About the Author

Katie Warner is a Catholic wife, stay-at-home mother, speaker, writer, and evangelist who is passionate about taking small steps toward a more meaningful and spiritual life, and helping others do the same.

She is the author of Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family (Emmaus Road Publishing, Fall 2015), a book that offers practical strategies and inspiring stories to help men and women better lead and love their families toward heaven.

Katie writes and speaks about a variety of spiritual and practical topics, and has presented in venues like the National Catholic Bible Conference and numerous Legatus chapters, the Eucharistic Congress of Atlanta, EWTN radio, and on EWTN television. She is also a presenter for the Symbolon RCIA and Opening the Word programs produced by the Augustine Institute. Katie is one of the original contributing writers for The Integrated Catholic Life and a correspondent for the National Catholic Register.

Katie works very part-time (usually during toddler naps and late at night) as the Manager of Communication and Evangelization for Catholics Come Home, a national Catholic evangelism apostolate working to invite fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics home to the Catholic Church. She holds a graduate degree in Catholic Theology, specializing in Evangelization and Catechesis, from the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. Her favorite ministry work—and day-job—is family life, and she enjoys homemaking and mothering in sunny Southern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

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4 Comments

  1. Katie,

    I recently led a reflection for a group of teens preparing for their Confirmation. I asked this question you’ve written about in a slightly different context, “As you prepare to enter high school (some were entering their second year), what qualities will you look for as you make new friends.” I asked them to think, not just with their emotions, but with their hearts joined to their minds. After allowing some time for them to write their answers down, I moved to the white board and solicited their responses which I then wrote on the board.

    A total of 18 different qualities were identified… only one was an external quality. The rest were qualities of the inner person that reflected the human virtues. I then asked them if these were the traits that they thought they would normally choose in the “heat of battle” that is high school life. They were very honest with themselves and acknowledged they were not. It was an “eye-opener” for them that they each believe will help guide them in the coming year.

    I then pointed out that those traits they identified after giving conscious, prayerful thought were the virtues taught by their Catholic faith. I truly believe that they “got it”. Their Catholicism should define them and is indeed relevant to them in their daily lives.

    Sometimes, we just need a reminder.

  2. Katie! This is an incredible article. It amazes me the you “get it” at such a young age. Thank you for writing a piece that will, hopefully, open the eyes of many.

    God Bless!
    Paige McCullough

  3. Deacon Mike,

    What a fabulous example. Isn’t it reassuring to know that (1) the students were able to come up with a list of qualities based on the virtues and (2) they were honest in admitting that they do not always actually seek out those virtues in their friendships? How promising this is, knowing that the right knowledge combined with the right intentions will lead them to take right actions in the coming year!

    Paige,

    Thank you for your kind words. It’s only by the grace of God that I “get” even a little glimpse of all His bigger pictures!

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